Washington

King, Pierce counties could be rolled back into Phase 2 next week

University of Washington research coordinator Rhoshni Prabhu holds up a swab after testing a passenger at a free COVID testing site in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Some of Washington’s largest counties could be headed back to Phase 2 next week, including King and Pierce Counties.

State health leaders said during a briefing Wednesday that several counties were right on the brink of getting sent backwards.

“There are a handful of counties that are at the threshold or above the threshold for case rates and hospitalizations,” said Lacy Fehrenbach, deputy secretary of the state’s COVID response. “There is a decent likelihood that a handful will potentially be moved back on Monday when we announce.”

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Large counties need to have 200 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents over two weeks and five or fewer hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past week. Counties with a population under 50,000 need to have 100 or fewer total new cases over two weeks and three or fewer hospitalizations over the past week.

Washington State Health Secretary Dr. Umair Shah said four of Washington’s largest counties have rising cases. Pierce County is at more than 180 per 100,000 over two weeks, and King County’s cases are also approaching the 200-mark.

“We will … have to take the appropriate action when we believe that people may be at risk,” Shah said. “And if we feel that because of case rates or other metrics, that we have to dial back, then we may do that.”

Shah said the vaccine alone is not enough to stop the spread of COVID-19 because only 20% of Washingtonians have had both doses.

Phase 2 takes capacity of indoor dining, retail, fitness centers, salons, and entertainment from 50% down to 25%.

Fehrenbach said if we don’t want to see our counties move back to those more limited restrictions, we should take a serious look at every choice we make.

“What we do today impacts our disease rates a week from now, two weeks from now, four weeks from now, two months from now … if you avoid infecting one or five people today, that makes a huge difference in the immediate term and the long-term,” she said. “So for counties that are on the bubble, so to speak, and concerned that they might be moved back, that is not the time to let down your guard.”

Even if a county does get moved back, she said these efforts could help them bump back to Phase 3 at the next evaluation three weeks later.

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